Is Sen. Mark Johnson effectively signing wife’s paychecks?

We all know Sen. Mark Johnson was in the hot seat for violating Senate ethics laws. But did you know that more ethics concerns involving Johnson and his wife, Catherine, have come to light? Recently, the Legislative Council asked for a hold on $6 million in grants awarded to three different agencies, all to whom Ms. Johnson has ties. The Council’s primary concern was that public funds would be used to pay Ms. Johnson. Good on ALC for flagging the conflict of interest; not so good on Sen. Johnson for downplaying his wife’s role in the grant process.

We’d like to know whether or not Catherine Johnson leveraged her husband’s position as a state senator to fundraise for her clients. Senator Johnson claims this is not the case, but a deeper look into Catherine’s hefty paychecks has us concerned. Here’s the breakdown of the three agencies in question for which Ms. Johnson fundraises:

Arkansas National Guard Foundation

  • $5 Million grant on hold
  • Per the agreement, Catherine would get paid $10,000 per month in 2022 and 2023
  • Total contract amount: $240,000 (this contract has since been canceled)

World Services of the Blind

  • $750,000 grant on hold
  • Per the agreement in 2019, for two years Catherine was to be paid $7,500 per month (She was required to secure “major grants”)
  • Total contract amount: $180,000
  • In addition to the previous deal, Catherine secured another two year deal in 2021; new contract pays $8,500 per month through 2022

Sultana Historical Preservation Society

  • $250,000 grant on hold
  • Per the agreement since 2020, Catherine has been paid $8,500 a month; contract renewable for three years.
  • Total contract amount per year: $102,000

Wait… She’s getting paid how much?

If the contracts remain the same, Catherine Johnson will receive $26,000 a month ($312,000 a year) from the agencies seeking $6 million in grants. However, the Arkansas National Guard Foundation has revoked the contract with Catherine, citing financial reasons as the cause. Neither Catherine nor Sen. Johnson have commented on the issue. Additionally, other agencies like the World Services of the Blind have stated that Catherine will not receive any payments from the grant.

Regardless of whether she receives payment from the grants, using her husband’s position to fundraise is clearly unethical. It’s not the first time rumors about Catherine using her husband’s job for gain have circulated. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

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